1960: First attempt at a Thunderball script

Kevin McClory's cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory’s cameo in Thunderball

Bond collector Gary J. Firuta loaned us a copy of the first script in what would eventually become 1965’s Thunderball — but it’s an uneven effort at best.

The script was Jack Whittingham’s first draft, titled Longitude 78 West for producer Kevin McClory. It’s dated as being completed on Feb. 15, 1960. The title page specifically refers to it as a “first draft screenplay” that’s “Based on a story by Ian Fleming.”

The villains belong to the Mafia and are led by Giovanni “Joe” Largo. Except we’re told in the second half of the script that name is an alias. Nevertheless, he is identified as Largo throughout the script in both lines of dialogue and in stage directions.

Aside from the hijacking of two atomic bombs, there’s no other action in the script’s first half. It begins with a short pre-credits sequence where U.S. President Harry S. Truman comments about how, one day, civilization could be destroyed by atomic weapons.

“It is hoped that we may be able to persuade Mr. Truman to record this scene,” the stage directions read. “If not, it’s (sic) intention and content can be expressed quite easily some other way.”

Bond doesn’t appear until page 26. The rule of thumb is that one page of script equals a minute of running time. So 007 wouldn’t be seen until almost a half-hour into the movie. He’s on the shooting range at headquarters, in a scene similar to the opening of Fleming’s Moonraker novel.

Bond is summoned to M’s office. Here, the secretary to the MI6 chief is named simply Penny, not Moneypenny. The British government has been notified by the Mafia it has the atomic bombs and it wants 100 million pounds.

We also see things unfold in the Bahamas. Largo’s mistress is Gaby. It’s clear she’s not particularly enthusiastic about the arrangement. He wants her for, in effect, decoration at an upcoming meeting of delegates to a supposed union meeting (of course they’re fellow members of the Mafia, or the Brotherhood). “I’ve got a lot of entertaining to do, and I want you around,” Largo tells Gaby.

Bond meets Gaby at a hotel on page 38. It turns out Largo’s group is meeting there as well. Bond orders a planter’s punch from a bartender and buys a vodka martini for Gaby. They talk until page 41, when Bond first gets a look at Largo and 007 meets the villain on the following page.

Shortly thereafter, Bond meets up with the CIA’s Felix Leiter. After a meeting with the governor of the Bahamas, the agents have lunch. Bond talks a lot about food. When Bond asks the waiter for a wine list, Leiter replies: “Not for me thanks. Bring me a glass of water.” Bond says, “Of course, I’d forgotten!” What he forgot is never explained.

In the story, there’s a sequence that goes back and forth between Bond romancing Gaby and Leiter keeping tabs on Largo’s group. There’s also a scene where Gaby talks to Johnni, a young boy who’s a crew member on Largo’s yacht. Bond wonders why Gaby is so interested in children. She replies because she can’t have any.

The action picks up in the second half. Largo is mad about Bond being with Gaby, and the agent gets beaten up. Eventually, the Mafia makes its move and is ready to bring one of the bombs to Miami.

Bond plays Largo in a game of baccarat. Presumably, this is an homage to Fleming’s Casino Royale and the scene is more important that a similar scene in Thunderball; in that version, the card game is where Bond and Largo first meet. Bond tries to win Gaby to his side and instructs her how to deactivate, or activate, the bomb.

Meanwhile, Leiter, while not an equal to Bond, is more of a participant in events than he’d be in Thunderball. He gets captured by Largo and is on the villain’s yacht.

In the climax, Bond is involved in an underwater fight with the Mafia (though not as expansive as would take place in Thunderball). Largo shoots Leiter, after the CIA agent had gotten free. Largo takes Gaby and the other bomb in an airplane.

Bond tends to Felix and watches the plane getting away. Then, the aircraft goes up in an atomic explosion. “She’s done it…She had the guts…She’s done it!” Bond says as the story ends.

Besides the downer ending, which 007 audiences wouldn’t experience until 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the script is unusual in other ways. It’s very chatty. VERY chatty. Scenes go on and on. Bond comes across as a social worker where he quizzes Gaby about her fondness for children.

Granted this is a first draft, but one suspects if this version had gone before the cameras, the cinema 007 might have ended right there.

The new issue of HMSS has arrived!

The publishers and editors of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant are pleased to announce the publication of our latest issue. This one — our best yet, we think — is packed with interesting reading about all matters Bondian.

We have some old friends returning and some new ones joining us for the first time. Our good pal Deborah Lipp checks in with two fascinating articles; one about Live and Let Die‘s monkeying around with tarot cards, the other about recurring themes of voyeurism and concealment in You Only Live Twice. Ron Feyereisen returns with a contrarian view of the ongoing Daniel Craig “reboot” tenure; suffice it to say that he’s not a satisfied customer. Speaking of reboots, regular contributor Derek Austin Johnson casts his gimlet eye on the latest 007 literary adventure, Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche (the James Bond watches man, Dell Deaton, offers a rebuttal). On the subject of the latest Bond novel, we’re rerunning Mark Henderson’s excellent interview (first published last April here on the blog,) with the author. We’re excited to welcome Stuart Basinger (that’s “Dr. Shatterhand” to you civilians) to the fold with his imaginary interview with former CIA director (and friend of Ian Fleming) Allan Dulles. James Bond is discussed. Ian Fleming Foundation member Colin Clark regales us with the story of the discovery and acquisition of Franz Sanchez’ escape plane — the Cessna we saw Timothy Dalton’s 007 lasso in Licence to Kill. And our stalwart senior editor Bill Koenig unearths the amazing story of what 1979’s Moonraker could have been like, if only Eon’s budget had matched the screenplay’s requirements. Bill’s story also covers script-to-screen changes in Diamonds Are Forever and Tomorrow Never Dies.

So set aside a little time, mix yourself a cool martini, and point your web browser to HMSS.com, for some thought-provoking entertainment and a heaping helping of, as the French say, le jamesbonderie (even though they probably don’t). Enjoy!